Supplements are useful for people who cannot meet their nutrient needs through a regular, varied diet. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, among those who may benefit from taking a dietary supplement are:
- Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, as they need to consume adequate amounts of folic acid to prevent certain birth defects
- Pregnant and lactating women who can’t meet their nutrient needs with food
- Older individuals, who need adequate amounts of vitamin D and synthetic vitamin B12
- Individuals who do not drink enough milk and/or do not have adequate sun exposure to meet their vitamin D needs
- Individuals on low-calorie diets that limit the amount of vitamins and minerals they can consume through food
- Strict vegetarians, who have limited dietary options for vitamins B12 and D and other nutrients
- Individuals with food allergies or lactose intolerance that limit food choices
- Individuals who abuse alcohol, have a poor appetite, have medical conditions such as intestinal disorders, or are taking medications that may increase their need of certain vitamins
- Individuals who are food insecure and those who are eliminating food groups from their diet
- Infants who are breast-fed should receive 400 IU of vitamin D daily until they are consuming at least 1 quart of formula daily. Children age one and older should receive 400 IU of vitamin D daily if they consume less than one quart of milk per day. Adolescents who consume less than 400 IU of vitamin D daily from their diet would also benefit from a supplement.
You should always meet with a registered dietitian (RD) before taking a supplement to make sure that it is appropriate for you based on your diet and medical history. You can find an RD in your area at: www.eatright.org.